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Threat to two planes at Kennedy unfounded

An air traffic controller looks out from the

An air traffic controller looks out from the JFK control tower in this file photo. (January 26, 2012) Credit: Craig Ruttle

Two airplanes that were the target of a phoned-in bomb threat Monday afternoon at Kennedy Airport were cleared to proceed to their respective gates after investigators found nothing suspicious on either plane, law enforcement and airport officials said.

Port Authority police isolated the airplanes at the airport to investigate the reported bomb threat, sources said.

An anonymous caller to the Port Authority police had made the threat, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

"Both flights have been cleared with negative results and are headed to the gate at this time," said Lisa Farbstein, a TSA spokeswoman in an email statement.

FBI officials in New York City confirmed that the airplanes had been cleared to take passengers to the terminal.

Two inbound planes to Kennedy, one an American Airline Flight 24, a Boeing 767 from San Francisco, and Finnair Flight 5 from Helsinki, had been separated in part of the airport and investigators boarded the plane to inspect it, a Port Authority spokesman said.

One source said a third American Airlines plane -- Flight 846 from Chicago -- was also inspected at Kennedy Airport and cleared. The source did not provide the circumstances of the inspection of the plane, which arrived at 3:54 p.m.

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said a fourth plane that departed and landed in Texas also was the target of a threat that was investigated, and that plane was later cleared.

The Finnair flight, an Airbus 330, landed at Kennedy at 3:40 p.m. The American Airlines flight was a Boeing 767 with 218 passengers, the airline said. A source said an air marshal was on board.

American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller declined to comment and referred calls to Port Authority police.

"We generally don't comment on security issues, but our people are trained to work with authorities to thoroughly assess these types of threats -- both credible and noncredible," he said in an emailed statement.

Passengers on the American Airlines flight said passengers remained calm as the plane was directed away from the gates and even after the captain's brief announcement about a threat.

"We were like 'Why are we being delayed?' " said Glynne Lewis, 65, of Los Gatos, Calif., after getting off the plane for a five-day vacation in New York. "Then he [the captain] announced there was an anonymous threat against the plane. Then all of a sudden we saw all the police cars with their sirens around the plane."

First, Lewis was annoyed at the delay, but then she thought, "If there's a bomb threat, why don't we deplane because they are risking our lives?"

Vincent Varo, here from France on business, said there were no details about the threat but he immediately thought of the anti-Muslim YouTube video that has set off anti-American riots in Libyia, Egypt and other Middle East countries.

"Nobody knew anything. I was sitting in the window and I saw from the very beginning there were trucks and police, and I knew from the very beginning that something was wrong . . . I was calm. I hoped there were no terrorist guys on the plane."

With Tania Lopez and Anthony M. DeStefano

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